Who: East Carolina Pirates vs. (21) South Carolina Gamecocks
When: Saturday, September 6 at 7 p.m.
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, SC
The South Carolina Gamecocks have a lot to prove after a slow, painful start last week against Texas A&M. The Gamecocks looked weak on offense, hardly putting up any rushing yards. The big struggle though was their defense. The Gamecocks gave up a school record 680 yards last week as Texas A&M ended their 18-game home opener win streak.
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward has decided to shake things up from last week’s starting lineup. After a breakout season last year, sophomore Skai Moore will resume his starting role after poor practice forced him to come off of the bench last week.
Rico McWilliams will also be starting for the Gamecocks, after true freshman Al Harris Jr. was picked on last week by the potent A&M offense. TJ Gurley has also moved into the starting role at safety, replacing Chaz Elder.
Offensive line coach Shawn Elliot also expects some changes in the trenches up front. The focus is going to be placed back on the ground game. A&M was able to hold the solid Gamecock rushing attack to just three yards per rush. Elliot says that Davis is ready for his breakout game after all of the hype surrounding him in the offseason.
The challenge for the Gamecocks will be very similar to last week. East Carolina runs a similar “air-raid” style offense, never hesitating to launch the ball down the field. ECU quarterback Shane Carden is a very experienced and talented player. He has thrown for 59 career touchdowns. Against North Carolina Central, he completed 70% of his passes.
Gamecock quarterback Dylan Thompson looks to bounce back and perform like he is expected to. He has ample targets at the wideout and tight end position that can make big plays. Nick Jones and Damiere Byrd have great speed and can sprint past the secondary to get open on the deep routes. Rory “Busta” Anderson and Jerell Adams are strong, sure handed ends who are a big threat in the passing game as well. Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds can carry the running game to a big number. The defense has had a week to think about their poor play, and should be much harder to surpass.
The Gamecocks come in averaging 52 points against ECU in their last two meetings, I expect the score to be similar.
My prediction is a 52-17 Gamecock victory. It will have to be something like that, if South Carolina hopes to have a chance at a national championship.
*Section Photo credit to John Russell, Associated Press; Featured Photo (above) credit to Wesley Hitt, SB Nation